In the beginning, China was lukewarm to the Russian military action in Ukraine. It means that no consultation about Russia’s proposed action against Ukraine was held with Beijing.
Although China, like India, did not sign the resolution of the UN HRC condemning “Russian aggression” against Ukraine, it chose not to be too garrulous about the developments in East Europe and its impact on global strategy.
But lately, China has shunned complacency and committed its solidarity with Russia. It was a sort of rapprochement reflected in China suspending its participation in the New START Treaty. Chinese senior diplomat Wang Yi met President Putin in Moscow earlier in February.
In a brief televised remark, Wang said China and Russia were ready to deepen their strategic cooperation. After meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, Wang said he expected a “new consensus” on advancing the relationship between the two allies.”
In response to the remarks of the Chinese diplomat, President Putin said Russian – Chinese relations were proceeding as planned and talked of reaching “new milestones” in international affairs, and expressed Russia’s gratitude to China.
China and Russia both indirectly referred to the international situation as “quite complicated,” to borrow the phrase from the quotes of President Putin.
He said that Sino-Russian cooperation and emphasizing general remarks from either side speak a lot about the new module for an international relationship, for which the term “multilateralism” has been coined.
The concept is technically called ‘multilateralism,’ and China has been the most vocal votary of the concept. The top Chinese diplomat had also said that any third parties ever dictated the Sino-Russian relationship. The reference could be the USA.
Wang Yi wanted to say that Sino-Russian accelerated relations do not stem from strained relations between the two countries with the US. Both leaders emphasized the importance of “multi-polar” approaches to international affairs as against the uni-polar worldview, by which China means the USA.
US Secretary of State Blinken argues that although China claimed to be neutral in the Ukrainian war, she made many comments supporting Russia. Blinken went to the length of stating that China could be on the verge of supplying lethal weapons to Russia.
The important thing to note is that the February meeting occurred during a week of diplomatic activity ahead of the war anniversary in Ukraine. The US President, Joe Biden, made his first and historic trip to Kyiv, where he met Volodymyr Zelensky.
President Xi is expected to be visiting Moscow soon, and in Moscow, Wang Yi also met with Nikolai Patrushev, the security council secretary. Some days later, China published a government paper on its global security Initiative.
It proposed an UN-backed concept of “common security” that would “respect and guarantee the security of every country.” It said that “only security based on morality and correct ideas can have a solid foundation and be truly durable.”
The paper also rejected the use of sanctions to resolve disputes. Xi repeatedly calls for China to become self-sufficient in key industries, such as semiconductors, as it faces a growing number of US export controls.
Commenting on Wang’s visit to Moscow, Professor Rosemary Foot of Oxford University said that Wang’s visit to Moscow was a chance to promote the idea that China wants a “peaceful settlement” and that the Chinese leadership emphasizes the importance of stability in international affairs, both as an ideology and as a means of achieving its economic targets.
Foot said that China also saw Russia as a buffer against western scrutiny. Last year, Thomas Haldenwang, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence service, said that regarding international security, Russia is the storm, China is climate change.” Ken McCallum, the Director of M15, has made similar comments.
This argument reinforced Beijing’s belief that China would have to take more of the brunt of western criticism ahead of Russia.
This is an insightful narrative about the growing relations between Russia and China, the two countries born out of the womb of socialism. The merits and demerits of the isms they follow are not the subjects of our analysis. But what we want to bring out of it for discussion among experts is the status of India, the world’s largest democracy almost sandwiched between the two ideologies.
When India declined to be among the critics of Russia accusing her of aggression against Ukraine, the US and her European allies were quick to criticize and warn India of the dire consequences of its pro-Russia policy.
S Jaishankar, the Indian External Affairs Minister, had to do much legwork to meet his counterparts in the US and some European countries and explain that India believes disputes can be solved by negotiations and not by provocative measures like passing condemnation resolutions or imposing sanctions.
When Prime Minister Modi bluntly told President Putin that this was not the era of war and that issues had to be solved through dialogue and democratic methods, the angry and rather antagonistic west sat down to re-think what Modi was thinking in realistic terms. They gradually cast aside their anger.
The US was the first to realize that India played a moral and realistic role in international politics. The policy planners in Washington reversed their cold-shoulder policy of yesteryears and began treating India as an indispensable partner in regional and global security.
The news has come today that the US Senate has recognized the McMahon line as the Himalayan boundary between India and China and that Arunachal Pradesh is an Indian State. This statement is meant to bring India to the fold of the democratic world.
The Indian government has to understand that despite very good relations with Russia, Moscow never came out with a statement like the one coming from the US about the Himalayan border.
The US recognition of the McMahon Line indirectly strongly supports India’s Himalayan border policy.
With this political landscape in the Asian region, India now has the greater responsibility of playing a crucial role in de-escalating tension between the US and China and finding out how a ceasefire can be implemented in the Ukraine war without further damage to life and property.